Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hair Apparent

My head has been reduced to a proving ground for toy trucks. (photo illustration by Lon Horwedel)

A few weeks ago, while working on my computer at a high school basketball game, a young boy who couldn’t have been older than three, came over and sat next to me. I smiled at the boy. He smiled back. I tried to continue working, but he put his hand on my knee and leaned in closer. I thought maybe he was interested in what was on my computer screen, but he seemed more spellbound by my face. Seconds later, he moved into the bleacher row behind me and leaned up against my back.

I figured someone must be missing him, but no one seemed too concerned, least of all, the young boy. I tried to ignore him, but he was so close I could hear his breathing. Before I knew what happened, he put something on top of my head – toy trucks, it turned out. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat there as he joyously rolled them back and forth across my hairless pate.

Finally, the boy's mother spotted him (along with everyone else sitting in the bleachers behind me) and laughter erupted. Embarrassed, she came over and tried to pull her playful young son and his toy trucks off my dome.

“So this is what it’s come to?” I thought to myself as I assured the mother that her son’s actions were perfectly fine.

It wasn’t always like this you know. Before the top of my head became nothing more than a state route for toy trucks, I actually had a lion’s mane of gold. In fact, when I was a kid, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I’d live my entire life looking like Andy Gibb, even if heredity suggested otherwise.

You see, my dad was bald; his dad too, but I was sure I would be different because in a German/Italian family full of nothing but brown-haired, brown-eyed moms, dads, brothers, sisters and cousins, I sprouted forth into the world a blonde-haired, blue-eyed freak of nature. My golden locks were so strikingly odd, my mother was certain I’d been swapped at the hospital for the only other boy born that day - a West Virginian kid named Buttons.

My golden locks and baby blues soon became the talk of the town, often leading to rude comments from other parents like “So, when did you guys adopt?” or “Where did this one come from, Sweden?"As I got older and my hair got longer, and I mean really long (hey, it was the 70’s, what can I say?) the comments changed, but got no less rude. “Your daughter’s gonna be a real looker!" They’d say. I didn’t care, I figured the crude comments were born out of jealousy for my flowing, blonde locks. I took pride in my hair … and it’s length.

I was a hair snob. On hot summer nights, I’d hang upside down from my top bunk and let the fan blow through my freshly washed mane while running my fingers through its silky-smoothness, thus helplessly trapping my younger brother in the bottom bunk with my Narcissism.

The beginning of the end, my senior year in high school.

Everything in my spun-gold-beach-boy world was perfect until the summer after my high school graduation. It wasn’t like my hair started falling out in clumps or anything, but there definitely was a recession of sorts starting to take place.

I convinced myself my slight hair loss only made me look more like Sting, but secretly I was worried my receding hairline wouldn’t stop until I looked more like Phil Collins. No amount of scalp massaging or topical Rogaine could stop the hereditary nightmare that had befallen me. At the ripe, young age of 19, I found myself snagged in the horrid throes of male pattern baldness!

The denial I put myself through was comical at times: I only hung around people shorter than me, I wore hats, and I toyed with the idea of the comb over. Eventually I conceded my fate. I think it happened my last trip to the barber, when, after only two minutes in the chair, he looked at me, scratched his chin and said, “Well … I guess I’m done.” After that, I did the only thing I could think of – I went home and started growing a beard.

Ironically, the only place I seem to have trouble growing hair is on top of my head; the rest of me is fairly gorilla-like. It's gotten so bad, I'm afraid I’ve become that guy at the pool - you know, the one who looks like he’s draped in a bearskin rug when he gets out of the water.

Amazingly, I actually met a woman who likes me bald (I married her right away). My wife happily tells me I look like Ed Harris (maybe it’s the blue eyes) but if I had my druthers, I’d rather resemble Sean Connery. It’s nice of my wife to say these things, but the truth is, those guys look good bald. Me? Not so much.

The problem, I suppose, is that my head is shaped more like a dinosaur egg than an actual human skull. When I had hair, this fact was conveniently hidden, but now there’s no denying it. Worse yet, to prevent a sunburned scalp in the summer, I constantly wear a ball cap which leaves behind a nifty, mid-cranium tan line that makes my head look like a matchstick whenever I take off my hat.

At some point I’ll most likely shave off the remaining hangers on that encircle my scalp and go into full "Yul Brynner mode." Until then, I’ll keep clinging to the precious memories of my adolescent coif and pray my own son will somehow break from tradition.


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